Osvaldo Oyola (Ph.D. 2014) successfully defended his dissertation, “(Re)Collecting Identity: Popular Culture and Narratives of Authentic Self in Transnational American Literature” in April 2014, securing his PhD in English from Binghamton University. In it, he explores how popular culture is put to use in highlighting the shifting nature of identity in a broadly considered transnational American literature of becoming. Osvaldo has been a regular contributor to Sounding Out! a weekly peer-reviewed online publication focused on sound scholarship, and also posts his thoughts on popular culture, race, and gender on his own blog, The Middle Spaces, focusing on popular music and comic books.
View CV: CV – Oyola-v8
Dissertation: “(Re)Collecting Identity: Popular Culture and Narratives of Authentic Self in Transnational America”
The increasing visibility of popular culture in contemporary American fiction calls for a serious critical interrogation of the various ways so-called “junk culture” has been put to use in literature of becoming in the late 20th and early 21st century—narratives that explore the play of identities in the individual in what Jeff Chang calls “the Hip-Hop Generation.” This project aims at using the practice of collecting as a framework for tracing out the contours of individual and social identities vis-à-vis popular culture. This dissertation seeks to theorize “(re)collection”—with its parenthetical “(re)” it is meant to expand on collection to consider how the forms and content of popular culture serve as a framework for suturing place, memory, language, and history together in ordering, re-ordering, remixing, recycling and curating cultural resources to craft a personal identity within a context of multiple social identities. This work also recursively defines the horizons of significance that give those social identities meaning.
Through the texts examined, this project not only demonstrates how characters and communities perform the work of (re)collection, but how the texts can be seen as collections themselves—becoming positional articulations of identity built upon shifting and even contradictory notions of an imagined community. Upon establishing a social and philosophical framework for understanding authenticity as the shifting measure of identities, close readings of texts collected via this framework demonstrate (re)collection at work by both authors and their characters. The texts include the independent comic book series Love & Rockets by Gilbert and Jaime Hernandez, Alice Bag’s Chicana-Punk memoir Violence Girl, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz, and Jonathan Lethem’s The Fortress of Solitude. In addition, this project uses the schema developed through the close examination of novels, to explore how narratives of identity are challenged or reinforced through institution documentation and archiving of hip hop, a cultural practice rooted in particular ethnic and racial transnational American history, that has becomes a more widely available site of identity construction.
Airek Beauchamp (Ph.D. 2016) is Assistant Professor at Arkansas State University. Airek’s dissertation, “Sociohistoric Approaches to the Conventions and Parameters of Academic Disciplines: A Micro Study of the Academic Identities of Dissertation Writers,” which details ways that universities can offer social and academic writing support to graduate students to better help them professionalize in their fields. His other areas of research include queer theory, affect theory, and trauma in the LGBTQ community.
Tara Betts (Ph.D. 2014) is the author of the poetry collections, Break the Habit, Arc & Hue and the chapbook/libretto THE GREATEST!: An Homage to Muhammad Ali. Tara is a Cave Canem fellow, and an alum of the Bread Loaf and VONA workshops. Tara’s poetry also appeared in Essence, Callaloo, Women’s Studies Quarterly, Ninth Letter. Her work appears in several anthologies, including Bum Rush the Page, Saul Williams’ CHORUS: A Literary Mixtape, VILLANELLES, both Spoken Word Revolution collections. She is finishing a series of critical essays entitled We Who Believe: Black Women Writers as Agents of Change. Her research interests include African American literature, poetry, creative writing pedagogy, and sound studies. She currently teaches at University of Illinois-Chicago.
Liana Silva-Ford (Ph.D. 2012) is an editor, writer, and AP English teacher currently living in Houston, Texas. She is the Editor-in-Chief of the newsletter Women in Higher Educationand Editor-At-Large of Sounding Out!. She is currently working on a book about postcards, stemming from her geeky postcard collection that’s over a decade old. When she’s not blogging, tweeting, and thinking deep thoughts, she is busy defending pop culture on an intellectual level, snapping pictures on her iPhone, listening to audiobooks and baseball games, and discovering her new Texas home.
Dissertation: “Acts of Home-making: Home and Urban Space in Twentieth Century African American and Puerto Rican Cultural Productions”
This study compares representations of New York City in the cultural productions of African Americans and Puerto Ricans throughout the twentieth century and looks at how they display a yearning to claim the city as a home. Ultimately, I argue that both African Americans and Puerto Ricans try to make New York City into a home space through what I have named “acts of homemaking.” That is, the cultural productions here examined depict their representations of this city as a place where they can express their humanity and a sense of community–but this struggle is a continuous one. Through the concept of home, the power dynamics that operate in both domestic space and urban space help illustrate better how citizenship operates. In other words, talking about home is also talking about citizenship and about nation. In Chapter 1 I argue that poet Willie Perdomo’s invocation in When A Nickel Costs a Dime of Langston Hughes’ Harlem as portrayed in Montage of a Dream Deferred opens up the notion of a Black Metropolis to include Puerto Ricans. Chapter 2 brings together Piri Thomas’s memoir Down These Mean Streets and Ann Petry’s The Street in order to support my claim that the sense of urban community that Thomas finds is lacking in Petry’s narrative precisely because it is a community only available to men. In Chapter 3 I focus on West Side Story and Raisin in the Sun, two productions that both premiered on film in 1961, in order to show how both texts demonstrate how the violent imposition of narratives of home and citizenship prevent both groups from making a home in the city. Chapter 4 looks at representations of New York City in the works of photographers Frank Espada and photographer Roy DeCarava. DeCarava shows a relationship between subject and place that Espada struggles with: New York City as a home. Looking at the representations of New York City across genres can show how the yearning to make New York City a home is not a coincidence but an indication of wider trends that intersect the experiences of minorities in U.S. cities.
Graduated Students Beyond Binghamton ✢Outside Member
Wanda Alarcón (Ph.D. 2016, UC Berkeley) is a recipient of the Carlos E. Castañeda Postdoctoral Fellowship for 2016–2017. She received her PhD in Ethnic Studies with a Designated Emphasis in Women, Gender, and Sexuality from UC Berkeley. She has an MA degree in English & American Literature from Binghamton University and a BA in Music from CSU Long Beach. Her dissertation, “Sounding Aztlán: Music, Literature, and the Chicana/o Sonic Imaginary,” explores the question: What does Aztlán sound like? Her research interests include decolonial feminism, U.S. third world feminism, sound studies, popular music, and Chicana literature. She has published essays on music, race, and queerness in the sound studies blog, SoundingOut!
During her time at CMAS she presented two new talks: “Theorizing the Flashback: 80s Soundscapes in Chicana Literature” at the American Studies Association and “Tuning into Coalition, Sounding Decolonial Feminism” at the National Women’s Studies Association conferences. She is writing an article on the theater performance group Butchlalis de Panochtitlan for publication in the forthcoming Oxford Encyclopedia of Latina/o Literature. In spring she will teach the course, “La Chicana: Tuning Into Chicana Soundscapes” and she will give a public lecture on her research
Aaron Trammell (Ph. D. 2015 Rutgers) is now Assistant Professor of Infomatics at UC Irvine. He is also a board game designer and musician. His dissertation, “Ideologies of Empire in Dungeons and Dragons: A Cultural History of Game Theory, Bioinformatics, and Cybernetics in America’s Underground 1958-1984,” explores the fanzines and politics of underground wargame communities in Cold War America. You can learn more about his work at aarontrammell.com.